Strong Women Wednesday Featuring Heidi Renee
KE: Tell me about yourself.
HR: My name is Heidi. I’ve been married fifteen years to my complete opposite, Jeremy. I have the incredible honor of being mom to our two children, AJ and Mimi. AJ is from Guatemala and Mimi is from Bulgaria. I am a mother, writer, and advocate. My passion is fierce when it comes to orphans, adoption, and special needs. When my son AJ came home our family was thrust into the world of special needs. This inspired me to create my blog where I stopped sugar-coating and became transparent in our journey. It is my desire to let special needs parents know they aren’t the only ones hiding in the closet after a new diagnosis or an incredibly hard day. I want to share both the good and the bad. We’ve taken some pretty big detours. By sharing our journey, I yearn to inspire and give hope when it is needed the most.
KE: How do you define strength and what does it look like in your life?
HR: Strength to me the ability to keep going. So often the definition of strength is pigeon-holed into physical strength. I think strength is so much more than that. Strength in my life looks like taking a deep breath in the morning before I roll out of bed. If it has been a particularly hard night for our family, every fiber of my being wants to wallow and cry and stay in the covers. Strength to me means taking a deep breath and getting up. Strength in my life also looks like not losing it when a doctor gives me a grim prognosis or lack of expectation for our son. Strength means enduring hundreds of doctor’s appointments and juggling all of it like a boss (sometimes). Strength means I keep going.
KE: As you know, strong faith is the focus of my ministry. But it can be hard to maintain a strong faith when life gets real messy. What do you do to keep your relationship with Jesus as strong as possible?
HR: When we first learned of my son’s diagnosis, God wasn’t in our lives. I had been raised in church but had fallen away several times. The last thing I wanted to hear was that God had anything to do with what had happened to us. I keep my relationship with Jesus simple. The more I complicate things, the farther I find myself from my faith. I’ve tried the calendars, apps, spreadsheets, reminders, studies, you name it. I kept forgetting I have a direct line to Jesus. Literally praising him in the storm is my jam. If I am driving, I turn the radio off and pray right there as I’m driving. If I read a prayer request on social media I stop and pray immediately. If I am sitting in an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting for one of my children and need Jesus, I call on him in my mind and heart right then and there. For a long time I held the misconception that worship and communication with God was reserved for Sundays or church events. Jesus is my Savior all the long, so why shouldn’t I tap into that relationship all day every day?
KE: Managing a household is hard. Whether you work, stay home, are single, married or have 8 kids; women often feel like they are just surviving each day. What advice would you give to women to help them strengthen their family?
HR: Well, some days we are surviving. However, I’m not a believer in the “fake it till you make it” mentality. I am a believer in allowing ourselves a bad day. We go to bed, and wake up knowing that His mercies are new every morning. Yesterday’s survival does not have to be today’s. I’ve also learned that strength can often be found in numbers. We don’t have to do it all by ourselves. Sometimes, that means swallowing our pride and our “I can do it all!” mentality and asking for help. I’m horrible at this this. But I make a consistent effort to stop and evaluate my needs and the needs of my family. It is ok to ask for help, whether that comes from our husbands, boyfriends, extended family, or friends. We were not meant to do this incredible life alone.
KE: What works for you when it comes to stress management?
HR: First, I find the constant barrage of articles, posts, and such on this topic do one thing: stress me out! Stress management is not one-size fits all. I hit a brick wall straight on before realizing how stressed out I truly was. We have this subconscious thought that we can’t stop anything for any reason. I began to say to myself, “If I stop _______, _______ will happen.” Funny thing, the consequences were only positive and clearly, the world kept spinning. I began to think of myself a little bit more. As women, we don’t always think of ourselves as much as we should. I thought of the things, ideas, people, hobbies, and anything else that inspires me. Inspiration brings me incredible relief sometimes. Most importantly, I’ve learned to recognize when my stress level is on an uphill curve and take the time to schedule respite, a date night, or ask for help when I truly need it. The world keeps spinning while Heidi rejuvenates.
KE: Depending on your definition of strength, “strong body” can mean something different to everyone. What healthy habits do you incorporate into your daily schedule to help keep your body strong?
HR: I do my very best to drink plenty of water and get as much sleep as I possibly can. My son’s neurology makeup doesn’t always allow him sleep so I do the very best I can with this. I find that if I don’t drink enough water my body feels sluggish and I don’t sleep as well. My son was/is on a high calorie diet. His gastroenterologist once told me he could have custard for every meal and he’d be just fine. For years I added extra calories to his diet with the wrong foods. I’m now on a mission to continue that high calorie diet for him in a healthier way that will benefit our entire family.
KE: What do you feel is the difference between relying on your own strength and relying on God’s strength?
HR: If I have learned one thing, it is that I am not in control. The only thing I have control over is my response to things. Through my son’s diagnoses, my husband’s diagnoses, and the continual twists and turns on my family’s journey, I rely on God’s strength. Oh we tried to do it by ourselves, believe me. I was a very bitter, angry, and cynical person back then. Now, I rely on Him to carry me through the dark and praise him in both the dark and the light. I can’t always see what’s coming, but He does.
KE: Would you mind sharing something you have struggled with and telling us how you used God’s strength to get you through?
HR: For years I was a very angry person. By grace I was able to compartmentalize my anger and bitterness apart from the care that my son needed. We were blind- sided and it changed both my husband and I. My son’s diagnoses and needs nearly wrecked my marriage. Blow after blow after blow kept coming and we were sinking deeper and deeper into the pit of despair. I began crawling back to my faith, slowly but surely. I kept praying for God to release this anger and bitterness I felt. I didn’t want it anymore. It was toxic and at one point, annoying. Eventually I did release it and haven’t looked back since. I didn’t realize God was healing me all those years I thought I was just spinning my wheels. I’m thankful every day that I am no longer that person and want others to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
KE: If you could share one message with every woman who is willing to listen, what would it be?
HR: Keep going. Whatever your road looks like, keep going.
KE: Where do you feel God is leading you next?
HR: When AJ was in preschool someone told me I should write a book. I laughed. Six years later, I’ve written a book. The Road Less Traveled: A Memoir of Adoption, Special Needs, Detours, and Love will be released this summer. This book is for the special needs parent hiding in the closet eating Oreos because the doctor just gave your child a new diagnosis. This book is for everyone curious about raising a child with multiple special needs and how I navigated all of those detours. I am so excited to share our story and hope that it will inspire others to keep going.
Please visit my website www.heidirenee.me to read more of our family’s story. You can reach me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
KE: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
HR: I used to think that my little life didn’t have seasons. I’ve realized my life does have seasons; they just look different than those of my fellow sisters. My favorite scripture is found in Ecclesiastes. I like to think of it as God giving me a swift kick in the pants and reminding me that there is indeed a time for everything.
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Thanks for sharing a piece of your story with us Heidi. I enjoyed reading it, and I learned things about you that I didn’t know. I was truly inspired by your words.
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In His Strength,